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SYMPHONIC

OVERTURES
OVERTURE

A PIECE OF MUSIC FOR INSTRUMENTS ALONE, WRITTEN


AS AN INTRODUCTION TO A LONGER WORK, SUCH AS AN
OPERA, AN ORATORIO, OR A MUSICAL COMEDY.

SYMPHONIC ORCHESTRA

A LARGE INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE THAT PLAYS,


SYMPHONIES, OVERTURES AND THE LIKE.
1812 Overture
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Written in 1880 during the romantic
period by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich
Tchaikovsky(1840-1893).
1812 was a bloody year across Europe and the new
United States. In America, US troops battled British and
Native American soldiers in what was called the second
war of independence. In Europe, French general
Napoleon Bonaparte led an invasion of Russia that
would be the turning point in his control of the
continent.

The music tells the story of the many challenges the


Russians faced as they tried to keep the French army
from capturing Moscow, and of their victory as
Napoleons army retreats in the face of the coming
Russian winter.
The piece opens with an arrangement of “Spasi, Gospodi, Iyudi Tvoya”
(“O Lord, Save Thy People”), a monophonic harmony played on violin
and cello in 3/4 time in EbMaj at 54bpm. It is a sorrowful introduction,
a feeling that the end is near.

After the first minute and a half the mood begins to change. We hear
the woodwind introduced in an ascending pattern, responded to by
the string section in an imitative fashion. The melody suddenly
collapses with a boom from the timpani and a very suspenseful, tense
pedal of the staccato strings accompanies an oboe solo. Polyphonic
melodies are introduced between the strings and woodwind playing in
counterpoint. The tension grows as the melody lines crescendo before
falling into the dynamic lift of the brass section punctuated with
cymbals.
Just before the fourth minute a snare drum is rattled and we hear those famous notes:

This passage is used as a leitmotiv to represent the Russian army.


By the fifth and a half minute, this device is used again when La Marseillaise is played. This
represents the French army.

As the eighth minute begins we hear an example of a Russian folk song (“U Vorot, Vorot”).
This is an example of nationalism being introduced by the composer, a popular trend during
the romantic period.
We then essentially hear reprisals of the tense, leitmotiv and folk sections.

Which brings us the twelfth minute and our first five booms of the canons written

as:

Quickly followed by a long descending, diminuendo string passage finalised with


the triumphant crashing of carillon bells to “Bozhe, Tsarya khrani!” (“God save the
Tsar!”)

Leading us to our grand finale bada-bumbum-BUMbumbumbum-BUM-bum-


bummmmm, accompanied by eleven more canon blasts!
Phew!
“Light Cavalry” Overture
(German: Leichte Kavallerie)
(1866)

Franz von Suppé


Light cavalry is a group of military troops riding on horses.
The "light" usually refers to their armor. A "light" cavalry has
little or no armor. A "heavy" cavalry armors the troops and
their horses. They're also slower moving, as a result. During
war, messengers were often accompanied by light cavalry.

Light Cavalry is a two act operetta written in 1866. The


story revolves around a troop of cavalry men who attempt
to unite a young couple through many twists and
turns. The overture has taken on a life of its own, much
beyond operetta that spawned it. It is core repertoire for
orchestras and bands everywhere.
Instrumentation:

Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Clarinet 1, Clarinet 2, Alto Clarinet,


Bass Clarinet, Alto Sax 1, Alto Sax 2, Tenor Sax, Bari Sax,
Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Horn in F, Trombone, Baritone,
Tuba, Percussion, Timpani and Bells

Time signatures:

4/4 (m.1 - m.23)


6/8 (m.24 - m.58)
4/4 (m.59 - m.74)
6/8 (m.75 - m.81)
Opening with a solo trumpet call, Suppé's overture to Die leichte Kavallerie
immediately suggests a military tale. After the rest of the brass join the
trumpet for a cadence, a solo horn repeats the entire gesture. In
typical Suppé fashion, loud and soft segments alternate as a solo flute tries
to present a theme, but is interrupted by outbursts from the orchestra
before the opening trumpet melody returns, this time in several brass
instruments and accompanied by an intense, repeated figure in the high
strings. All this serves as an introduction to the second section of the
overture, which begins with a rapid pulse in the woodwinds supporting the
main theme in the violins. Out of this grows the famous, "galloping" brass
theme, which is almost immediately later taken by the entire orchestra,
fortissimo. A slow, quiet passage leads to a clarinet solo that introduces a
plaintive string theme with a distinctly, "eastern" flavor, created through the
strategic placement of half steps. This is the "Hungarian" theme of the
operetta, presented here at length. The galloping returns, and after a full
statement, the opening trumpet call mingles with the galloping theme to
create a crashing close.
William Tell Overture
(1824-1829)

Gioachino Rossini
(1792 -1868)
Instrumentation

The overture is scored for: a piccolo, a flute, two oboes (first or second
oboe doubles a cor anglais), two clarinets in A, two bassoons,
four French horns in G and E, two trumpets in E,
three trombones, timpani, triangle, bass drum and cymbals,
and strings.

Structure

The overture, which lasts for approximately 12 minutes, paints a


musical picture of life in the Swiss Alps the setting of the opera. It was
described by Hector Berlioz, who usually loathed Rossini's works, as "a
symphony in four parts.“ But unlike an actual symphony with its
distinct movements, the overture's parts transition from one to the
next without a break.
Prelude: Dawn
The prelude is a slow passage in E major, scored for five solo cellos accompanied
by double basses. It begins in E minor with a solo cello which is in turn 'answered'
by the remaining cellos and the double basses. An impending storm is hinted at by
two very quiet timpani rolls resembling distant thunder. The section ends with a
very high sustained note played by the first cello. It’s duration is about three
minutes.

Storm
This dynamic section in E minor is played by the full orchestra. It begins with
the violins and violas. Their phrases are punctuated by short wind instrument
interventions of three notes each, first by the piccolo, flute and oboes, then by
the clarinets and bassoons. The storm breaks out in full with the entrance of
the French horns, trumpets, trombones, and bass drum. The volume and number
of instruments gradually decreases as the storm subsides. The section ends with
the flute playing alone. It also lasts for about three minutes.
Ranz des vaches
This pastorale section in G major signifying the calm after the storm
begins with a Ranz des vaches or "Call to the Cows", featuring the cor
anglais (English horn). The English horn then plays in alternating
phrases with the flute, culminating in a duet with the triangle
accompanying them in the background. The melody appears several
times in the opera, including the final act, and takes on the character
of a leitmotif. It’s duration is a little more than two minutes.
This segment is often used in animated cartoons to signify daybreak,
most notably in Walt Disney's The Old Mill.
Finale: March of the Swiss Soldiers
The finale, often called the "March of the Swiss Soldiers" in English, is in E major
like the prelude, but it is an ultra-dynamic galop heralded by trumpets and played
by the full orchestra. It alludes to the final act, which recounts the Swiss soldiers'
victorious battle to liberate their homeland from Austrian repression. The segment
lasts for about three minutes.

Although there are no horses or cavalry charges in the opera, this segment is often
used in popular media to denote galloping horses, a race, or a hero riding to the
rescue. Its most famous use in that respect is as the theme music for The Lone
Ranger; that usage has become so famous that the term "intellectual" has been
defined as "a man who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of
the Lone Ranger.“The Finale is quoted by Johann Strauss Sr. in his William Tell
Galop (Op. 29b), published and premiered a matter of months after the Paris
premiere of the original, and by Dmitri Shostakovich in the first movement of
his Symphony No. 15.
One of the most frequently used pieces of classical music in
American advertising, the overture (especially its finale)
appears in numerous ads,

The overture, especially its finale, also features in several


sporting events.